A Dove Among Eagles by Linda Patterson

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Linda Patterson is a powerhouse of determination. Her energy emanates from a core of emotions connected to her brother Joe Artavia’s heroic death in combat in Vietnam, a sacrifice she wants remembered forever. Her instincts regarding love and respect are flawless. Her patriotism, as she expresses it in her memoir, A Dove Among Eagles: How the Sister of One Paratrooper Changed the Lives of Tens of Thousands in Vietnam and Beyond (Silver Linings Media, 212 pp. $19.95, paper; $9.99, Kindle), overpowered me.

In one instance, her belief in America’s righteousness in world affairs astounded me to a degree that I challenged her logic. But I accepted it. She is unbeatable.

Growing up, Linda Patterson had three younger brothers for whom her mother made her responsible. Mom cared for the children, but also enjoyed drinking and husbands: She married five times. At the age of 14, she ran away from the turmoil of the household. She still watched over her youngest brother, Joe, though, even after he joined the Army and went to Vietnam in 1967 where he served in the 101st Airborne Division.

Amid much of the American public’s aversion to the Vietnam War, Linda Patterson’s concern for her brother peaked when he wrote to her and suggested she could raise the “low and dropping” morale in his company “as high as the clouds” by getting their hometown, the City of San Mateo, California, “to adopt us.”

That request turned Linda Patterson’s life around. Her involvement with that idea created a relationship between San Mateo and the men of Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry in 101st’s 1st Brigade that is still tight today. To show that the people of San Mateo truly cared about the men of A Company, Linda Paterson flew to Phu Bai in Vietnam and lived for two weeks among the troops, an experience that she describes in detail in the book.

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Visiting wounded troops in Vietnam 

She organized a 1972 homecoming with a full-scale, three-day celebration in San Mateo—including a parade—for all 130 men in the company. She then induced the city to install a Screaming Eagles museum in its main library. In 2016, she guided the construction of a monument at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, to honor the 792 men of the 1/327th who perished in the Vietnam War.

She accomplished all this while dealing with personal issues that stretched her emotions to their limits. Foremost was the death of her brother Joe. She also had to deal with marital, parenting, and employment problems. She did so with remarkable fortitude.

Based on her success with her brother’s unit in Vietnam, in 1991 Linda Patterson formed America Supporting Americans to work to have other towns and cities adopt military units fighting in the Middle East, a program that is going strong today.  The book includes an excellent collection of photographs of  projects Linda Patterson has championed.

I once heard Tony Curtis—yes, that Tony Curtis—say, “Living is such a wonderful experience you do not want to deny it.” Good, bad, and otherwise, he seemed to tell us. Linda Patterson’s life parallels that motto and is well worth reading about in her book.

—Henry Zeybel

Surviving the War Zone by Richard Quarantello

Richard Quarantello’s Surviving the Warzone: Growing Up East New York Brooklyn (Xlibris, 192 pp., $22.99, hardcover; $15.99, paper) is the most action-packed book I have ever read. In fact, it may be one of the most action-packed books ever written as I could not find one episode that didn’t describe some kind of fighting—from the streets of Brooklyn to the jungles of Vietnam.

A very violent fight introduces the book and sets the theme of survival. The author also includes a rundown on much of the historical violence that created New York City.

That book’s first sentence is the most shocking and the most difficult to believe of anything in the book. To wit: “The story I’m about to tell you is nonfiction.”  Growing up on a farm in Indiana certainly didn’t prepare me for what I was to learn about the 1960s life in Brooklyn.

Quarantello uses an effective writing style that kept me at the edge of my chair. The book is made up of a series of short vignettes with no wasted words. There are more than thirty short episodes describing the life of a young man coming of age in a domestic war zone.

Ricky Q., as he was known, got his first job as a butcher shop delivery boy at age twelve. Keeping himself in good physical shape, he was noticed by members of the New Lots Boys gang. By thirteen, he had become a bona fide member.

Brooklyn gang, 1959, photo by Bruce Davidson

He learned boxing from Mr. Nero, an African-American man well respected by the gang who imparted wisdom that served Ricky Q. well. “Lesson number one, it’s not called fighting, it’s called boxing, and it is a science. Fighting is a reaction to your emotion; boxing is thinking, using your mind. It’s an art that will help make and shape your character.”

The reader is introduced to several characters who grew up the same way Quarantello did. They shared an esprit de corps and “had each other’s backs,” which often came in handy in the violent world they inhabited.

Today we are shocked to hear about children being attacked by other children for a pair of tennis shoes or a coat. No such story would have shocked Ricky Q. and his friends.

Most of the book is taken up with Quarantello’s life from 1959-65. After that, the Vietnam War took center stage. Ricky Q. was inducted into the Army in 1965. Although his life drastically changed in basic training, he still managed to get in fights with fellow trainees. One incident involved slices of toast.

Ricky Q. spends only a small portion of his book telling of his war-time activities. He describes his bewilderment at having to kill people who had never been a threat to him or his family. While serving with the 101st Airborne, he was wounded three times.

Like millions of others caught up in war his main goal was to go home in one piece and find his place in the world again. A fitting song to close this book might be Billy Joel’s “Good Night, Saigon.” I await the sequel, Ricky Q.

—Joseph Reitz